Posted by: Jo | June 28, 2021

A Messenger of God

“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation.”

(Isaiah 52: 7)

Good news is always welcome and during this last year of anxiety, fear and the ups and downs of living through a pandemic, good news at some points of the chaos, was hard to come by. People were in lock down, confined to their homes, the elderly, felt very isolated. Churches were closed, but it soon became apparent to all those who followed Jesus that his message of love needed to be still shared with others. We all needed to become messengers of God.

I had an experience myself as I live alone and felt discouraged when an e-mail from a friend popped up on my computer. It was a very encouraging, message and my spirits lifted, and I felt this person had been prompted by God to send me that message. I decided that I too could be a messenger of God if I spent time with him asking who he would want me to contact.

In the Old Testament, that is how God spoke to his people through his prophets who listened to his word and faithfully transmitted it to his people.

We have a wonderful example of what can happen if believers become messengers.

We read in the book of Acts, that after Jesus had been crucified and been resurrected his followers were anxious to spread the good news, but many were thrown into prison, but an amazing occurrence showed them the power of the one they served.

“But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. “Go and stand in the temple courts,” he said, “And tell the people the full message of this new life.” (Acts 5: 19 – 20)

The apostles became avid messengers of the good news and brought hope and joy to thousands.

I have a beautiful little book called, God’s Promises and it is filled with the promises God has made to his people and to all of us who are his children. Sometimes when we are lonely or downcast, we heed to hear that message and the first of John’s letters reminds us.

“How great is the love that the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are.” (1 John 3: 1)

Sometimes we can be the messengers of that beautiful truth to someone we know who needs to be reassured that they too are God’s children.

Another beautiful promise is one that we can all hang on to no matter what upheavals are happening in our lives. We do not need to be afraid we will not be able to cope.

“Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you or forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:  6)

We can all ask God to be one of his messengers to bring love and comfort to others.

“Like the coolness of snow at harvest time is a trustworthy messenger to those who send him he refreshes the spirits of his masters.” (Proverbs 25: 13)

Posted by: Jo | June 6, 2021

A Conversation With God

“The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!”. Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

(1 Samuel 3: 10)

We have just finished an interesting study in our Bible study at our church on listening and prayer. While we were going through it, I remembered a very memorable remark from the leader of a previous study on prayer that I had attended. Our leader used the illustration from the story of the Lord calling Samuel when he was a young boy and dwelling in the temple with Eli (whole story in 1 Samuel 3)

Eli told Samuel to answer the Lord by telling him that he was ready to listen to him, our leader said to us, too often when we are talking to God, we say the reverse,

Listen, Lord your servant is speaking!!

In the book of Proverb, we read some incredibly wise words about how to listen to the Lord. We walk closely with him as he directs the best way to navigate through life, especially when so many paths look tempting, but are going to end up in disaster.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3: 5 – 6)

When we ask the Lord, what is the best action to take in a situation, it is wise to do as Proverbs states. We must not present to God what our understanding of the problem is and the solution that will remedy it. We must wait patiently, listening carefully as to what God thinks is the best solution. People have asked how to do that as God’s voice does not thunder from the sky, but I have found that if we present the problem first, often a thought will surprise you by coming into your mind. Often too, while reading scripture a verse will suddenly help you, or unexpectedly a Christian friend will tell you of a wise way to handle the problem.

The Psalmists knew that they needed the Lord to help them to stay close to him and I love this prayer of David’s, one that is perfect to start every day.

“Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are my God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day.” (Psalm 25: 4 – 5)

Any conversation with a close friend is not all about us. It is a time to tell a loved friend about how you value them and their lovely qualities you admire. This is true when we speak to God. Of course he wants to hear what is troubling us, but it is also a time to praise him for his love his compassion for us and to thank him for the many answered prayers.  Beginning with praise and thanksgiving is a wonderful way to begin our prayers and seems to open our hearts to hear him.

“Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise, give thanks to him and praise his name.” (Psalm 100: 4)

Posted by: Jo | May 16, 2021

Seeing Through Different Eyes

“The Lord does not look at what man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

(1 Samuel 16: 7)

Many years ago, we had a very, sad occurrence happen in my family when my daughter’s husband suddenly and unexpectedly died. My husband and I wanted to support her and be able to help her in any way we could, so we decided to go and live with her to help her cope with this terrible tragedy, as we had a big gentle Labrador dog, all three of us moved in with her.

My daughter lived in a vastly different area of our city from where we lived, with many ethnic and culturally different people. Living there I learnt some very, valuable lessons. One day I was walking our dog by myself when a very large man came towards me and he looked to me to be quite frightening, with long dreadlocks of hair and nose rings and arms, covered with tattoos. I thought perhaps I should cross over to the other side of the street, but before I could he called out hello to me and knelt down to pat my dog and with a lovely smile chatted with me about the dogs he had owned. My dog loved him immediately and began to wag her tail. I was so ashamed of myself to have judged this man by his appearance when my own dog only saw a kind friend.

We learn very, early in the Bible that our Heavenly Father does not look at outward appearances but looks at hearts (1 Samuel 16: 7)

It is so easy for us to assume something about another person and either judge them or be impressed with what they wear or the car they drive or how beautiful they are. Paul warns new believers about also admiring people for the wrong reason and ensures his readers that he does not do this.

“As for those who seem to be more important- whatever they were makes no difference to me, God does not judge by external appearances- those men added nothing to my message.” (Galatians 2: 6)

Jesus himself, urged his listeners at the temple and of course all of us who desire to follow him, to stop judging others by appearances.

“Stop judging by mere appearances and make a right judgement.” (John 7: 24)

I learnt a very valuable lesson, strangely emphasized by my dog, by seeing that judging by appearances can be so misleading and during that time we were living in that neighborhood I actually looked forward to walking my dog and meeting and chatting with others who did not look like me but proved to be interesting and willing to talk to me and my dog. When we accept each other, we start to obey that beautiful command of Jesus.

“A new command I give you; Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13: 34)

Posted by: Jo | May 1, 2021

Sanctified Bait

“Come follow me”, Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.”

(Matthew 4: 19)

My husband was an avid fisherman and when he was a little boy, in Australia, his father, also an avid fisherman, taught him how to feed the worms on the hook, where the best place in the lake to throw the line and then the patience to wait for that exciting tug on the line that signified a fish had taken the bait. When he grew up, the ocean was the next place to practice his skills, but when we moved to Canada, he then had to learn quite a different skill to catch trout in the cooler waters here, and again became proficient not only in casting, but in learning how to make the intricate little flies that attracted the trout.

I was thinking about him when Jesus spoke somewhat strange words to his first disciples, “I will make you fishers of men.” And another strange memory came back to me. When I was younger, I joined a group of women in my church who had a weekly Bible Study. Once a month we had a lunch to which we were encouraged to ask friends and neighbors to attend. The idea was to tell others who may not be believers to come and know Jesus. Our leader had a name, just between ourselves for this lunch, “Sanctified Bait”, to inspire us to become fishers of men.

The leader explained that when Jesus told his disciples that they were going to be fishers of men, he was telling them that they were to attract others, so they longed to find out who Jesus was. This was not for their glory but to glorify the Heavenly Father.

Jesus told this to his disciples.

“This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” (John 15: 8)

When my husband was making replicas of those tiny insects that lived in the lake, he had to make sure they were exactly like the real ones so that the trout would be attracted to them. That was what our leader was telling us to be, a copy of Jesus and how he showed us how to live so we would exhibit his love /compassion/ forgiveness to others so they would want to seek him for themselves. Not for our glory but for the glory of the Heavenly Father.

So how do we do just that?

If we want to be true replicas of Jesus, we must look closely at how he lived while on earth, to listen to his wisdom, absorb his commands, and remember that he has given us his Holy Spirit to help us to do that and to keep in touch with him daily through prayer and reading God’s word.

Paul entreats the new believers to have the attitude of Christ.

“Your attitude should be the same as Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2: 5)

We can learn to become, “Sanctified Bait”

Posted by: Jo | April 17, 2021

Aging Gracefully

“From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another”

(John 1: 16)

I have definitely reached that stage in life when I am classified as old. In today’s society to be old is something we have to postpone as long as possible with the media swamping us with ways of how to do this. Perfect cream for wrinkles/ face lifts/ plastic surgery/ vitamin pills/ exercise. The other day I saw an article prompting this theory with this intriguing title “Aging Gracefully”. When I read it, I had a totally different idea of what that title meant for me. We can age gracefully without all the above because we are filled with grace from the Heavenly Father and that is the true meaning of graceful, filled with grace.

Scripture is very encouraging about getting older, especially if we are following in the Lord’s footsteps.

“The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will bear fruit in old age; they will stay fresh and green.” (Psalm 92: 12 – 14)

What a wonderful promise, what an encouraging word that even as we grow older, we will still be able to bear fruit for the Lord.

When we look carefully at what it means to bear fruit, it is interesting to see that no mighty deeds are mentioned, no achieving greatness everyone will admire, no working day and night so God will notice what we are doing, but an incredible change in how our natures can change so we can reflect the grace of God to all those we come in contact with so they will feel his love and long to know him. The other encouraging thing to note especially for those who are old, is that all the fruit mentioned is equally possible without any physical strength needed. We do not need to be young to bear fruit.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self – control. Against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5: 22)

Paul often began his letters with this beautiful blessing and reminder.

“Grace and peace to you from God our Father and Lord Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1: 2)

Later on, he reminds them that this blessing of grace is not a one time thing, it continues through our whole lives.

“being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1: 6)

I do not see any promises of being able to run marathons when we are old (not that I ever could do that!!) but knowing the fruit of the Spirit is always there to fill our beings is a wonderful promise and when I become weary, I sing one of my favourite songs we sing at my church.

The joy of the Lord is my strength!

Posted by: Jo | March 24, 2021

Let The Sunshine In

“But they who love you be like the sun when it rises in its strength”

(Judges 4: 11)

I live in Vancouver, Canada. One of the most beautiful cities in the world. Its back drop is majestic mountains that overlook an equally, beautiful harbour, that leads out to the sparkling ocean where a rushing mighty river also exits from the land. Unfortunately, for me anyway, the climate leaves much to be desired, rain and grey days feature much of the winter and often spoil summer days. Friends who live in Eastern Canada are horrified when I say that as heavy snow and below freezing temperatures are their lot and they envy our mild winters, but I was born in sunny Australia and miss the sun! 

When we were children growing up, we had a song we loved singing and it went like this, 

Oh, let the sunshine in

Say it with a grin!

Smiles never lose.

And frowns never win.

So, open up your hearts and let the sunshine in!

The verse in Judges, (5:11), written thousands of year ago, echoes that sweet children’s song and when we love and follow the Lord, we can be that sunshine for all those around us even when it is a grey day. The world is experiencing a grey time, now, as the pandemic continues to attack humans and take away lives, it is hard not to feel downcast with restrictions in place, but when we think of being able to spread the joy of sunshine it gives us impetus when we know that the Lord will help us to do that. Also, our own spirits lift as mine did as a little girl when we began to grin while we sang that little ditty. 

Radiant faces are spoken of in scripture and sunshine and shining like the sun is contributed to our Heavenly Father and when the prophet, Habakkuk sees a vision of God this is the description. 

“His splendor was like the sunrise; rays flashed from his hands where his power was hidden” (Habakkuk 3: 4)

Jesus who was the very essence of God, is transformed in front of Peter, James and John and his face shines like the sun. 

“There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as the light.” (Matthew 17: 2)

Sunshine is proving to be beneficial in stopping the spread of this covid19 that is creating havoc in our world and health authorities are now offering hope that as summer arrives cases here will ease. 

Sometimes life does take on a feeling of gloom and if we allow it to overcome us it can do a lot of damage in our lives and sometimes of course we are justified in feeling low as circumstances overwhelm us, but if we go and read the verse in Judges (Judges 4:  11) we find that if we spend time with the Lord his warmth will give us strength. 

So, open up your heart and let the sunshine in!

Posted by: Jo | March 7, 2021

Not Alone

“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

(Matthew 28: 20)

I have been just reading an article on the tragic, effects loneliness has on people and in this present time of isolation and restrictions to social gatherings in our communities due to the pandemic, it is becoming increasingly obvious how widespread this is. Old people, and those living alone are being overwhelmed with sad thoughts and becoming deeply depressed.  

When Jesus was leaving his disciples, he knew they had each other, but he also knew they were going to be lost without him so his beautiful gift to them, and to those who would believe in him, was to fill them with his Holy Spirit to be with them for always (Matthew 28:20).

He also knew that we would not be able to make it through life on our own, so he graciously gave us his Holy Spirit to dwell right in our hearts. 

“We know that we live in him and he lives in us, because he has given us his Spirit.” (1 John 4: 13)

So, we are never alone. 

“he anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts, as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” (2 Corinthians 1: 22)

When we know that Christ’s Spirit dwells with us, now wherever we are, we can share that Spirit with others so they too do not feel alone. Thanks to modern conveniences we can still even though rules of in person gatherings are restricted, use the telephone/ Face time/Zoom send letters to those not familiar with computers. Just having someone contact us is a huge blessing. Even when I am out walking with my mask firmly on. I try to say Good Morning and I wave to neighbors I know. 

The book of Ecclesiastes emphases how important it is to have somebody in your life who cares for you, 

“If one falls down his friend can help him up…” (Ecclesiastes 4: 10)

I read a sweet story about a little boy who was in bed upstairs when a wild, storm started with thunder and lightning and he called out to his parents that he was frightened, They reply, Jesus will keep you safe and he cried out, I want someone with skin on. 

Although we may smile at the little boy’s response, there is a lot of truth to how often we and lots of lonely ones agree with the little boy. We can be the “skin on” for others and bring the warmth of Jesus Christ through looking out for others especially the lonely and shut in. 

Jesus also gave us the beautiful gift of being considered his friend and one of my old, favorite hymns has that title. 

What a friend we have in Jesus

What a friend we have in Jesus

All our sins and griefs to bear

What a privilege to carry

Everything to God in prayer

So, these words assure us, we are never alone! 

Posted by: Jo | February 20, 2021

Perfect Peace

“You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you”

(Isaiah 26: 3)

I grew up during the World War II. As a child and as a little girl I did not understand what was happening, but I do remember my parents straining to hear the latest news from the radio and we children were forbidden to make any noise while the news was on. I also remember being aware of my parent’s anxiety and remember their gasps of horror as they heard of yet another ship being sunk and our young soldiers dying.

The other thing I did not understand was how often I would hear the word peace. I wondered when this would happen and as the years dragged on, I thought that was something that would never happen. I also wondered what that word meant. Would there be no fighting ever again/ would there be no hate/ would the whole world just love one another? Would my parents stop gasping when they heard the news?

As I grew up, I realized peace was not a universal good will between all countries or between people, families, cultures and races, It was not until I began to really read the Bible that I found the only perfect peace was attainable through knowing and following Jesus Christ and living his way.

When the prophet, Isaiah, was prophesying about the coming Messiah, he said one of his titles would be, Prince of Peace.

“And he will be called, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, everlasting Father Price of Peace.” (Isaiah 9: 6)

When the angels were announcing the birth of Jesus Christ, they promised that the beautiful gift of peace was coming with this new baby.

“Glory to God on the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2: 14)

The peace that is promised is extremely hard for humans to understand and when Paul is writing to the Philippian believers, he explains that this peace transcends all human understanding. It has one special quality we can all understand. If we choose to be blessed by this peace our hearts and minds will be guarded so Jesus Christ will always be foremost.

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4: 7)

Sometimes there are bumps in the road of life and it is hard to understand why and to have that perfect peace. That is when we need to remember that our understanding is not enough and one of my favorite verses is in the book of Proverbs.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3: 5)

And we also need to remember that peace is a gift from Jesus himself, but like any gift we have to accept it to experience it.

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you. I do not give it to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14: 27)

Posted by: Jo | January 30, 2021

The Ministry Of Reconciliation

“All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation”

(2 Corinthians 5:  18)

Many countries in the world are in turmoil with the people being divided by hate, injustice, race, poverty and these emotions escalating into riots and warfare, at this time in history the United States of America, is exhibiting the terrible effects of what happens when mankind is no longer interested to hearing from others their grievances or even trying to hear what they are saying.

When Paul is writing to the Corinth church, he reminds them of how Jesus led the way and showed us what reconciliation meant, by his death on the cross he reconciled us to the Heavenly Father, so what is the important message for us?

The dictionary provides an answer to what to reconcile means:

To set estranged persons or parties as one again, to bring back into concord, to reunite in harmony.

When we can grasp that we were once estranged from our Heavenly Father we begin to understand the incredible act Jesus performed on the cross to bring about reconciliation between us and the Father.

When Paul calls believers to a ministry of reconciliation, he is, telling us that practicing reconciliation becomes part of our heritage of following Jesus Christ and what we must constantly strive to accomplish in our own lives.

Again, in the book of Romans we read Paul entreating his readers and that also means us, to accept one another

“Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” (Romans 15: 7)

I met a lady once who had had a bad experience joining a church and this is what she confided in me, “I never felt I was accepted into the congregation and nobody noticed when I left.”  I felt very, sad hearing that story and knew that even in our churches we do not practice the true ministry of reconciliation.

Even within our own family and our friends discord happens, but it does not need to develop into a wide gap that can never be bridged. James in his letter gives us some ways to prevent that happening.

He spends a lot of time telling his readers how our tongues can bring about division and destroy relationships, his advice is still very, true today.

“My dear brothers take note of this. Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to get angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” (James 1:  19 – 20)

We may not be able to solve huge discord in countries, but we can certainly pray for reconciliation for those divided by hate and Jesus tells us to pray for God to intervene.

“Deliver us from evil.” (Matthew 6: 13)

Also, when we strive to bring about peace in our families, between friends, in our church families we are pleasing our Father and truly practicing the ministry he wants to see flourishing. 

“Peacemakers who sow in peace, raise a harvest of righteousness.” (James 3: 18)

Posted by: Jo | January 10, 2021

Whose Child Am I?

“You are the children of the Lord your God”

(Deuteronomy 14: 1)

I am reading a very thought provoking and sometimes sad book, written by a friend of my daughter. Her friend was adopted and although her adopted parents told her she was, she spent her childhood and well into her life agonizing about whose real child she was. Not only that big question haunted her, but she also lived constantly under the fear of perhaps if she wasn’t well behaved her adopted parents may give her back to where they had adopted her from. She constantly worried about why her mother decided to give her up/ was she an ugly baby/ was she sickly/ what was the bad thing about her that made her mother abandon her? Would her adopted parents after a while, realize, they had made a mistake and they too would stop loving her?

The book made me think deeply about how many of us might also have fears about our relationship with our Heavenly Father, perhaps thinking like the adopted girl in the story, that the Father would only continue to love us if we were good and pleased him, not completely understanding the amazing incredible everlasting love the Father has for his children.

“The Lord appeared to us in the past saying, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with everlasting kindness.” (Jeremiah 31: 3)

What an incredible reminder! His love does not fluctuate to sometimes to hardly ever. His love is everlasting. Love so amazing we are overcome in awe at being the recipients of such love.

When we read Isaiah’s prophecy about the Messiah to come, we again see a wonderful reminder that Jesus Christ will have the same characteristics, assuring us again to expect that everlasting paternal love

“…He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9: 6)

The other incredible happening because of Jesus coming to save us is that Jesus invites us to speak to God directly and allows us the privilege of calling him, Father. He tells us we are now allowed to speak to the Creator of the universe, as his child and can address him as, Father. Jesus actually teaches us the right way to pray.

“This then is how you should pray, “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be your name.” (Matthew 6: 9)

We may lose our earthly fathers, but the comforting thought remains we cannot ever lose the everlasting love of our heavenly Father.

When we remember how great his love is, we never ever have to wonder if we are living up to a set of rules so he will love us.

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!  And that is what we are!” (1 John 3: 1)

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